[Mr. Bill O'Brien in the Chair]
The Serious Organised Crime Agency
Amendment proposed [this day]: No. 120, in schedule 1, page 120, line 28, after '9)', insert
'(aa) such persons appointed by SOCA under this paragraph as police members of SOCA,'.[Mr. Andrew Mitchell.]
Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.
The Chairman: I remind the Committee that with this it is convenient to discuss the following amendments:
No. 121, in schedule 1, page 120, line 36, after first 'SOCA', insert
'or police members of SOCA'.
No. 108, in schedule 1, page 122, line 33, at end insert
'Police members of staff of SOCA
13A A person shall be appointed as a police member of SOCA if
(a) he is attested or sworn as a constable and
(i) he is a member a police force maintained under section 2 of the Police Act 1996;
(ii) he is a member of the Metropolitan Police Force or City of London Police Force;
(iii) he is a regular constable within the meaning of the Police (Scotland) Act 1967;
(iv) he is a member of the Police Service of Northern Ireland;
(v) he is a member of the Ministry of Defence Police appointed on the nomination of the Secretary of State under section 1 of the Ministry of Defence Police Act 1987;
(vi) he is a member of the British Transport Police Force;
(vii) he is a member of the States of Jersey Police Force;
(viii) he is a member of the salaried Police Force of the island of Guernsey; or
(ix) he is a member of the Isle of Man Constabulary;
(b) he is an officer of Revenue and Customs, or
(c) he is an immigration officer within the meaning of the Immigration Act 1971.
13B(1) Subject to the provisions of this paragraph, the Secretary of State may make regulations as to the government and administration of SOCA and conditions of service within SOCA.
(2) Without prejudice to the generality of sub-paragraph (1), regulations under this paragraph may make provision with respect to
(a) the ranks to be held by police members of SOCA;
(b) the promotion of police members of SOCA;
(c) voluntary retirement of the police members of SOCA;
(d) the efficiency and effectiveness of police members of SOCA;
(e) the suspension of police members of SOCA from membership of it and from their office as constables;
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(f) the maintenance of personal records as members of SOCA;
(g) the duties which are or are not to be performed by the police members of SOCA;
(h) the treatment at occasions of police duty of attendance at meetings of the Police Federations and of anybody recognised by the Secretary of State for the purposes of section 64 of the Police Act 1996;
(i) the hours of duty, leave, pay and allowances of police members of SOCA; and
(j) the issue, use and return of
(i) personal equipment and accoutrements; and
(3) Regulations under this paragraph for regulating pay and allowances may be made retrospective to any date specified in the Regulations, but nothing in this sub-paragraph shall be construed as authorising the pay or allowances payable to any person to be reduced retrospectively.
(a) pay, or make payments in respect of pensions or gratuities to or in respect of any persons who are or have been police members;
(b) provide and maintain schemes (whether contributory or not) for the payment of pensions or gratuities to or in respect of any such persons.
(5) Before exercising its powers under sub-paragraph (4), SOCA shall have regard to any provision made under the Pensions Act 1976.'.
No. 74, in clause 38, page 21, line 12, leave out 'Whether or not' and insert 'only if''.
No. 142, in clause 41, page 22, line 3, leave out from 'a' to end of line 4 and insert 'police member of SOCA'.
No. 143, in clause 41, page 22, line 5, leave out 'The designated person' and inset 'A police member'.
No. 144, in clause 41, page 22, line 6, leave out 'the designated person' and insert 'a police member'.
No. 122, in clause 41, page 22, line 13, leave out 'the designated person' and insert 'a police member'.
No. 123, in clause 41, page 22, line 16, leave out 'the designated person' and insert 'a police member'.
No. 124, in clause 41, page 22, line 17, leave out 'The designated person' and insert 'A police member'.
No. 125, in clause 41, page 22, line 21, leave out 'the designated person' and insert 'a police member'.
No. 126, in clause 41, page 22, line 23, leave out subsection (8).
No. 127, in clause 42, page 22, line 29, leave out 'persons designated' and insert 'police members'.
No. 131, in clause 46, page 24, line 41, leave out 'designated person' and insert 'police member'.
No. 132, in clause 46, page 25, line 1, leave out 'designated person' and insert 'police member'.
No. 133, in clause 46, page 25, line 4, leave out 'designated person' and insert 'police member'.
No. 109, in clause 46, page 25, line 5, leave out 'designated person' and insert 'police member'.
No. 110, in clause 46, page 25, line 8, leave out 'designated person' and insert 'police member'.
No. 111, in clause 46, page 25, line 10, leave out 'designated person' and insert 'police member'.
No. 112, in clause 46, page 25, line 12, leave out 'designated person' and insert 'police member'.
No. 113, in clause 46, page 25, line 24, leave out 'designated person' and insert 'police member'.
No. 114, in clause 46, page 25, line 25, leave out 'virtue of the designation' and insert
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'reason of holding the powers'.
No. 115, in clause 47, page 25, line 39, leave out 'designated persons' and insert 'police members'.
No. 116, in clause 47, page 26, line 6, leave out 'designated persons' and insert 'police members'.
No. 118, in clause 49, page 26, leave out lines 36 and 37.
No. 119, in clause 49, page 26, line 40, leave out subsection (2).
New clause 8Police members of staff of SOCA to have powers of constable etc.
'(1) The police members of staff of SOCA (''the police members'') shall
(a) have the powers of a constable,
(b) have the customs powers of an officer of Revenue and Customs, and
(c) have the powers of an immigration officer.
(2) For the purposes of this Part ''police member'' means a person who falls within paragraph 13A of Schedule 1.'.
I understand that the Minister has the floor, but she may wish to give way to the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve).
Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con) indicated dissent.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Caroline Flint): I will not give way at this juncture, as I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will intervene in the next few minutes.
Welcome to the Committee, Mr. O'Brien. I look forward to working with you today and during future sittings. This morning, we had a strong and expansive discussion, particularly about the fundamental issue of whether, in creating the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, we would be creating another police organisation or something entirely different. The latter is the Government's vision for the organisation. As I said earlier, if we felt that we were already doing the most that we could do to tackle organised crime, we might be satisfied with the status quo.
That is not to say that the National Criminal Intelligence Service, the National Crime Squad, Customs and Excise drugs investigators and, for that matter, the immigration crime side of the immigration authorities are not doing very good work independently and in partnership. We are at this point because we are trying, as the consultation paper said, to be one step ahead of organised crime. I would like to pay tribute to the specialist staff who currently work in the NCS and NCIS. Alongside their police colleagues in those organisations, they often put themselves at risk in tackling dangerous criminals. We are trying to create a new organisation, one that can define its own culture in order to be one step ahead of serious and organised crime.
Mr. Grieve: The Minister said a moment ago that SOCA was a new organisation, designed to achieve something different. Just before the break, she ran through a list of other organisations that currently have powers akin to those of the police, such as Customs and Excise. Is the difference in the new regime that, whereas those other organisations have very specific remitsCustoms and Excise dealing with
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revenue and importation, for exampleSOCA is, by the nature of the Bill, going to deal with general policing matters? That is explicit in the powers that it has been given, including entering premises, interviewing people and seizing documents. Is there not a danger that, in creating a SOCA divorced from a police background, we are just adding something else to the existing organisations that have the powers of constables, creating a parallel police force? That is the matter that the Minister has not yet addressed.
Caroline Flint: I disagree with the hon. Gentleman about a parallel police force. That would suggest that we are trying to create an organisation to work in competition with the activities undertaken at force level. I hope that we shall discuss in detail the arrangements for mutual assistance, for sharing information and for calling on SOCA for support and assistance where that is appropriate. Earlier, I gave the example of a police force that might want the assistance of SOCA because it had certain expertise and technical ability in relation to kidnapping. This is not about creating an organisation that is in competition with the 43 police forces. It is about recognising that in the case of level 3 crime, different components come together. We will also look for opportunities to go after those individuals if they are involved in level 1 and level 2 criminal activity. The amendments would create a situation in which the agency had people of different status and on different sites, working under different terms and conditions. That is not good. Part of our problem in addressing organised crime is that we have too many different agencies with different cultures and histories.
The key issue is not the name of the person. The hon. Gentleman and his colleagues want to refer to people as police members. It is about equipping them with the necessary and proportionate powers to do the job that they need to do. If that involves, for example, powers of arrest and entry, then that is quite right. I have conceded today that we will come back with something in the Bill to reassure people that the appropriate training will take place before people are designated powers. However, the Bill should have the flexibility to ensure that people, from wherever they come, are able to be designated the necessary powers to do the job.
It seems that there is a partial assumption among Opposition Members that recruitment will come from the existing organisations working in this field, whether individuals come from the NCIS or the NCS, the police forces themselves, Customs and Excise or those dealing with immigration crime. However, we are looking to a future where individuals may come directly into SOCA as an organisation. They may not have come from a policing background, but building on the technical and specialist skills that they may bring with them to enable them to do their job, they will require the designation of powers that we feel the Bill provides.